Friday, May 15, 2009

GroundSource Cited as "Geothermal Upstart"

Unique Applications of Building-Integrated Renewable Energy Systems
by Charles W. Thurston

Thanks to outdated design, buildings consume close to 70 percent of all U.S. energy, so it's not surprising that President Barack Obama's stimulus package includes $65 billion in funding and tax credits for green energy and energy efficiency. But the technology choices for adopting building-integrated renewable energy (BIRE) can still be awe-inspiring: should architects focus on the U.S. subsidy of $5 billion for weatherization, $4.5 billion for transforming federal buildings into green buildings or the $3.6 billion for efficiency and other savings?

"The overall green building market (both non-residential and residential) is likely to more than double from today's $36-49 billion to $96-140 billion by 2013."

-- McGraw-Hill's Green Outlook 2009

Geothermal Upstart Targets Residential Installations

Beneath virtually every building in the country, ground source heat pumps (GHPs) hold out much promise for building integrated use, especially for new buildings where drilling access is presumably easier. Indeed, geothermal could provide a leading share of the renewable mix in a modern structure. According to Patrick J. Hughes, an analyst at the Energy and Transportation Science Division of Oak Ridge National Laboratory, "If the federal government set a goal for the U.S. buildings sector to use no more non-renewable primary energy in 2030 than it did in 2008, based on previous analyses, it is estimated that 35 to 40 percent of this goal, or a savings of 3.4 to 3.9 quads annually, could be achieved through aggressive deployment of GHPs. "

One company pushing the edge of drilling technology for ground source heat pumps is GroundSource Geothermal Inc., of Redwood City, CA, which is developing shallow dry-rock engineered geothermal systems or EGS, at depths ranging between 250 and 400 feet. A 2008 Clean Tech Open award winner, the company is "testing its GeoJetter drill system, comprised of four independently-operating units that use high-pressure and steel shot to yield a finished borehole," says Dennis Murphy, the president of the company.

Unlike standard drilling, their borehole is elliptically-shaped rather than circular, reducing cuttings by 40%. While building up its capital base, the company expects to launch a pilot residential business in Northern California next year, and subsequently to roll out franchise-detailed operations across the country, he said.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

The LEED Platinum House includes GSHP

A funny thing happens when I check out the articles about the Net Zero Energy and LEED Platinum houses featured on the very well-done Jetson Green blog...almost all seem to feature a ground source heat pump to take care of their heating, cooling and hot water. Just imagine that

The RainShine House has received LEED Platinum certification, the first modernist residence in the Southeastern U.S. to achieve such a lofty award. Gound source heat pump? Check.

This home doesn't have a catchy name like "Tara," but it is the first LEED Platinum home in Vermont, although perhaps more importantly, it's a documented and legitimate zero net energy home.
It was also a multiple award winner: GreenSource Best Green House of March 2009, 2008 AIA Vermont Honor Award for Sustainability and Design, Efficiency Vermont's Best of the Best Award in 2008, and NESEA $10,000 Prize for Zero Net Energy Residence. GSHP? Yah sure, you betcha.

Located on the beach of Cape Cod, this home features a jaw-dropping, west-facing view of the water that, although gorgeous, isn’t particularly energy efficient. Nevertheless, the narrow site and desire for an ocean view pretty much mandated large and expansive windows in that area of the home. The rest of the envelope, therefore, compensates for what is lost in energy performance on westerly facade and the heating, cooling and hot water is taken care of by the ground source heat pump. The combined effect of this and a solar array ensures that the Truro Residence produces as much energy as it uses over the course of a year. It’s a net-zero energy home. Plus, the site is landscaped with indigenous plants that require no irrigation, and the design prioritized materials (and GSHP) that maintain healthy indoor air quality.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Congress To Stop Using Coal In Power Plant

Filed by Nick Sabloff, Huffington Post
WASHINGTON — The 99-year-old Capitol Power Plant, which provides steam for heat and hot water in congressional buildings, is ending its distinction of being the only coal-burning facility in the District of Columbia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said Friday that the switch to natural gas as the sole fuel source used at the plant was part of their efforts to reduce the carbon pollution impact of Congress on the nation's capital.

"The Congress of the United States should not only be a model for the nation, but also a good neighbor," Pelosi said.

The two Democratic leaders have for the past several years initiated steps to make the Capitol grounds more environmentally friendly. But moves to change light bulbs, use less paper and buy fuel-efficient vehicles have in some respects been overshadowed by the smoke that continues to rise from the power plant about four blocks south of the Capitol. The D.C. government has complained that the plant worsens air quality and has affected the respiratory health of residents and workers in the area, particularly children.
The plant last year operated on about 65 percent natural gas and 35 percent coal. Pelosi's office said the plant has not burned coal since March and would continue to go without coal barring problems.Acting Architect of the Capitol Stephen Ayers cautioned in a letter to Pelosi that work still needed to be done to upgrade the natural gas pipelines. He said coal might still have to be used as a backup in circumstances where heating needs exceed capacity of the natural gas pipelines, when abnormally cold conditions increase demand or when there are equipment outages.The Capitol complex would not totally end its dependence on coal. Electricity is supplied by a local utility company that uses coal as a power source.Ending the use of coal at the power plant has met some resistance from coal state lawmakers, who have said it sends the wrong message about the possibilities of But Hill Residents for Steam Plant Conversion, a neighborhood group, has urged Pelosi and Reid to move quickly to stop using coal at the plant, saying it was a major source of sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide and particulate air pollution.